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12 Days of Christmas {Activities}

12 Days of Christmas {Activities}

12 Days of Christmas {Activities}

Everyone is probably familiar with the popular Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” originally published in the late 1700s. The song lists the gifts someone gave to his or her true love — the number of gifts representing each day of the twelve days of Christmas beginning December 25 and continuing through January 5. The song is cumulative, meaning each verse includes the gifts of the previous days.

There are many traditions associated with the song that attempt to assign meanings to the gifts — everything from each of them representing birds (five golden-ringed pheasants, for example) to weather predictions. One of the more recent interpretations involved a conjecture by Hugh D. McKellar, a retired school teacher and hymologist, that the gifts represented a type of catechism.

By 1909, no one much wanted to recall the situation which had called the catechism-songs into being; but neither did everyone forget. Thus my first intimations that something lay below the surface of “The Twelve Days” came from elderly people who had moved to Canada from the north of England; their memories yielded more than I have ever managed to find in print. In any case, really evocative symbols do not allow of definitive explication, exhausting all possibilities. I can at most report what this song’s symbols have suggested to me in the course of four decades, hoping thereby to start you on your own quest.

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” by Hugh D. McKellar, October 1994

McKellar’s conjectures were picked by up others and the idea gained traction, despite the lack of evidence.

It is possible there was confusion with “A New Dial: In those twelve days let us be glad” printed in 1625, a song included in the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.

In any case, the song can be used to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, to learn more about the main tenets of the Christian faith, or simply to enjoy a cumulative round!


Create a 12 Days of Christmas notebook using Drawing & Writing Paper to illustrate each day’s gift, copy the verses that go with the gift, and add something interesting that was learned about the gift.

Day 1: A partridge in a pear tree.
Day 2: Two turtle doves.
Day 3: Three French hens.
  • Learn more about the Faverolles and the Marans (scroll down), two types of French chicken breeds. Obviously, the hens would be the female chickens.
  • Fill out an animal report sheet for the hen of your choice on this form from
Day 4: Four calling birds.
Day 5: Five golden rings.
  • Originally this was thought to refer to the ring around a pheasant’s neck. Learn more about the pheasant.
  • Fill out a bird notebooking page for the pheasant.
Day 6: Six geese a-laying.
Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming.
Day 8: Eight maids a-milking.
Day 9: Nine ladies dancing.
  • Enjoy the “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from the Nutcracker, performed by the Royal Swedish Ballet.
Day 10: Ten lords a-leaping.
  • Enjoy watching the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker.
Day 11: Eleven pipers piping.
Day 12: Twelve drummers drumming.

Additional Resources

12 Days of Christmas
Fun version performed by the United States Navy Band:

“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
Article by Hugh D. McKellar quoted above.


“The Twelve Days of Christmas”
Sing along with Christmas Karaoke.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Singing and Sketching the 12 Days of Christmas
Lesson plan idea from Crayola where students think of modern gifts to give.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Christmas Coloring Book
Cute 12 Days of Christmas coloring book download at DLTK.

Drawing & Writing Notebooking Paper {Free Download}
Notebooking pages for illustrating and copying or narrating each of the verses.

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